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Special delivery

Selected works from the RA Collection en route to Australia

Published 4 March 2014

Helen Valentine, our Senior Curator, and Edwina Mulvany, our Registrar, have just returned from Australia where they were installing the exhibition ‘Genius and Ambition’.

  • Genius and Ambition: the Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 includes 97 objects representing the breadth of our Collection including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs and historic books from the Academy’s foundation in 1768 up to 1918.

    After four years planning and discussions with Bendigo Art Gallery, the works were shipped at the beginning of February with the installation completed for the opening on 1 March. Transported to Australia in two shipments the works travelled via Hong Kong to Melbourne before being trucked 94 miles down to Bendigo in central Victoria. The first two images below show the crates being transferred from the tarmac onto the plane in Hong Kong before they arrived in Bendigo during a 40°C heat wave.

  • Bendigo Art Gallery was established in 1887, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Year, and is one of the oldest and largest regional galleries in Australia. Genius and Ambition is being shown in the beautiful Victorian galleries which were designed in the grand European tradition with polished wood floors and ornate plaster arches and cornices. Here you can see Helen recording the placement of the pictures as the installation is finalised. On the right, journalists record the unpacking of A Mermaid by John William Waterhouse RA, one of the most famous paintings in the exhibition.

  • It’s great to see Genius and Ambition being widely promoted throughout the city of Bendigo with banners outside the railway station and lining the streets. The work by Waterhouse looks particular fine in the Australian sunshine.

  • The exhibition includes some wonderful paintings by Gainsborough, Constable, Turner, Millais, Sargent and Sickert. There is also an especially interesting section exploring the training of artists in the Royal Academy Schools, through drawings of casts, life models, anatomical studies as well as a selection of books used by the students such as Goya’s Disasters of War.

    Genius and Ambition: the Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 is at Bendigo Art Gallery until 9 June 2014.